Some of you will have already received our Christmas letter, but others will not have seen it. It comes to you all with our best wishes for a truly happy Christmas and the Father’s rich blessings throughout 2019.
My father died five months before I was born, so I have no background knowledge of a father. On the other hand, Elizabeth’s father was a wonderful person who Elizabeth loved and looked up to. This year we have both grown in our appreciation of God as our heavenly Father who loves us, cares for us, provides for us and protects us. And he is “our Father in heaven”, so he has the power to fulfil all a true father’s desires and purposes. At Christmas we remember again the coming of Jesus, sent by the Father to make the Father known to us. Through Jesus we can know and relate closely with our heavenly Father. What good news!
Since July we have been specially grateful that we have God as our heavenly Father. Elizabeth took our daughter Margaret’s Labrador dog for a walk, it spotted a fox, darted after it and pulled Elizabeth over. As a result she developed sub-dural haematoma (blood in the skull) with the ever-present danger of a stroke as she has had to come off warfarin. She is getting stronger, the skull blood is reducing and we very much hope in the New Year that she will be back to normal. Meanwhile we rely very much on our Father in heaven, and are grateful for your prayers.
Speaking and preaching
Our Father knew in advance that with Elizabeth’s situation I should not be away too much. So the diary until July was pleasantly full with a good range of engagements in different churches, retreats and conferences. But since July the diary has been very light. In March Interserve had a special weekend conference for their staff and workers at which they asked me to be the speaker.
The theme allowed me to share my current hobby-horse that our evangelical ‘Gospel’ has been too Pauline and related to salvation from sin (few people today have a sense of sin). I feel strongly that John’s message of life, life abundant and eternal life relates better for our contemporary society. When people learn to worship the all-holy God, then they will appreciate better Paul’s message of redemption and justification.
Two visits to Scotland also stand out specially. Dornoch in the north (near Inverness) and Banchory (near Aberdeen) both gave us a warm welcome and we much enjoyed ministry in churches there. In Dornoch Elizabeth had the joy of meeting an old school friend who she had not seen for 65 years! In Banchory we were hosted and treated royally by the Brodies, warm-hearted ex-All Nations friends (a big thank-you to them).
We very much appreciated a week in Chichester in February for Chichester Baptist Church. It was encouraging to see this large church flourishing and growing. While there we also taught one day at Moorlands Bible College and another day with Friends International. How good too to meet up with Sir Richard Jolly who had been with Elizabeth back in 1957 when her brother John led an exploratory trip to determine which route Hannibal took over the Alps. Thank-you to our good friends, Mike and Celia Askwith (also ex-All Nations), for arranging that fascinating day at their home by the sea together with a nice swim. Mike’s father was the officer in charge of the inter-service Russian course where I trained as a naval interpreter in Russian.
This year there have only been two overseas trips. The first was a lovely week’s holiday in Teneriffe. The second was my usual annual trip to Norway. I started in Trondheim at the Ga Ut Senteret, a mission training school that was much influenced by the All Nations model at first. I have taught at this school every year since it started some 35 years ago and always enjoy being there. This visit I had just two days teaching, giving eight lectures plus having times with the students. Then I flew down to Oslo for two days’ lecturing at the Fjellhaug theological college. After the second day’s lecturing our very good friend Nora Gimse picked me up and we had a delightful dinner together with two of her sons and their wives plus one baby grandchild. It was such a joy to be back together with them. Nora then drove me back to her home in Porsgrunn where she is the Free Lutheran minister. It was, as always, a special joy to be with Nora and her husband Per (who bravely copes with advanced MS) as well as her parents who live two minutes’ walk away. It has been with Nora and her father that Elizabeth and I have had our China visits.
While I was away in Norway, Elizabeth stayed with our son Andrew and his family. They welcomed her so lovingly and cared for her, so I felt very much at ease leaving her.
1) All Nations Living so close to the college, it is a privilege still to have close relations with All Nations although it is now 24 years since we left the full-time staff. But they still call us ‘Associate Lecturers’ and we much enjoy teaching a couple of mornings each term on their 10-week En Route course. This is such a brilliant course and I would recommend it warmly to anyone wanting to be involved in anything cross-cultural.
We much enjoy welcoming students coming down to our house for coffee and chat. This also helps keep us more up-to-date on other countries – just recently we have had visits from Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Norway.
Approximately once a month a small group of former All Nations lecturers gathers together to pray for the college and for each other. We also always take some relevant subject to discuss together. These are such good times of friendship and fellowship.
2) Local Church We continue to be very much involved with our village parish church. Normally Elizabeth leads Services and preaches regularly, but of course just at present that has to be on hold. I am allowed to preach four times a year. Elizabeth is responsible for preparing young couples who want their children ‘welcomed’ or baptised – a great opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with them. On Thursday mornings we much appreciate an informal coffee morning with no fixed agenda in our local garden centre. This plays a significant part in helping some of us to get to know each other so much more closely.
Sadly the church has declined considerably, but Elizabeth and I very much enjoy the friendship and fellowship of the other church members.
3) Blogs Feeling that the message of John’s Gospel is more relevant to contemporary society than the traditional Pauline ‘Gospel’, I wanted to do a fresh study of John. Of course I had read and studied this Gospel so often before. It seemed good therefore just to use the Greek and only refer to English translations and commentaries just before writing my blogs. My aim is to avoid my previously rather traditionally western and Gentile view of John’s Gospel. In this way God’s Word has come to me with an exciting freshness and I have become more than ever convinced that we need today to reemphasize John in our understanding and communication of ‘the Gospel/good news’.
I owe a real debt to Richard Harvey, a good friend and leading Jewish scholar, who persuaded me to write these weekly blogs on John (martingoldsmith.wordpress.com) and who now adds the illustrations and posts them for me. It is such a joy to get emails and other feedback from various countries and to know that some 350 people follow them each week as well as all those who just ‘access’ them. May the Holy Spirit use these blogs for his glory and to encourage, stimulate and challenge many who read them!
As we get older, we appreciate even more the enormous privilege of having such a loving family. And with Elizabeth’s illness they have all been tremendous in loving care and concern. Andrew continues his work in the City and his three girls are growing up so attractively and doing very well at school. Margaret now works more and more with Aberkyn, teaching on leadership and relations with top business leaders. Wonderfully, Chloe can now work three days a week, and progress after her major brain tumour operation two years ago is steady but slow. We are deeply grateful to God for the amazing recovery she has experienced. James has completed his studies and now has a good job. Our younger daughter Ruth is now in leadership with Tear Fund and travels widely, speaking at various conferences all over Britain and overseas. Her Mali has just finished school and is now beginning her gap year before starting at university. Jemba continues at school and is developing into a lovely young lady.
We much look forward to hearing from so many of you over Christmas.
Happy Christmas and our best wishes for the Father’s rich gift of abundant life in 2019,
Martin and Elizabeth